On-the-spot meals given out to desperate Northampton food bank visitors more than double in one year

There are 50 Weston Favell Centre Food Bank volunteers who come from many different places and all work in harmony to provide a good service to their clients. Volunteers come from St Peter's Church, Storehouse Church, Emmanuel Group of Churches and other faith groups in Northampton.
There are 50 Weston Favell Centre Food Bank volunteers who come from many different places and all work in harmony to provide a good service to their clients. Volunteers come from St Peter's Church, Storehouse Church, Emmanuel Group of Churches and other faith groups in Northampton.

The provision of hot meals handed out by Cafe Emm to Weston Favell Centre Food Bank users has seen a year-on-year increase of 232 per cent.

This money was spent on 142 food bank users who access Weston Favell Centre Food Bank, giving them a slice of toast and a cup of tea, some of whom have not eaten for a few days.

The food bank does receive donations from supermarkets, as well as pastries and breads from Greggs, but it is reliant on donations from the general public. Pictured: food bank manager Jo Alderman.

The food bank does receive donations from supermarkets, as well as pastries and breads from Greggs, but it is reliant on donations from the general public. Pictured: food bank manager Jo Alderman.

A total of £249 was spent on hot food in January this year alone. This was a 232 per cent rise, and £174 year-on-year increase on what was spent in January 2018.

Chair of Emmanuel Church Group, Nick Bewley-Tippler, said: "On average, a client will spend about 90 minutes with us. Most of that time will be waiting for their parcel, and some will be time spent with a referrer who will assess their need. On arrival, they are offered basic food, which is usually a slice of buttered toast or a toasted teacake and a tea or coffee.

"That works out at between £1.30 and £2.25 per person. The number of people fed is higher than the number of clients, because clients often bring family members with them. It’s also the case that some people, particularly single mothers, haven’t eaten at all for several days. In their case, we will provide a proper meal for them, if they want it.

"One of the reasons that the cost of provision increased out of proportion to the number of people fed in January 2019, is that we were having to provide more expensive food, for example, beans on toast or egg on toast to more people."

But it is not just emergency food parcels and hot meals they fund. In January this year, £852 has been spent almost entirely on helping people in fuel poverty, but the food bank now even pays for pet food and clothes if people are in need.

"As well as pet food, we provide for special dietary needs or sanitary products (particularly nappies), even shoes, clothes, and transport fares, out of the Benevolent Fund, but the majority of use, particularly in January this year, is fuel poverty support."

Even more shocking, perhaps, is that the food bank has handed out 172 emergency food bank parcels this January, compared to 53 during the same time last year. A year-on-year increase of 224.5 per cent.

This stark reality follows the roll-out of Universal Credit launched in Northampton back in November, volunteers say. Anyone applying for any combination of housing benefit, income support, jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance, child tax credit or working tax credit will instead now have to apply for Universal Credit.

The all-in-one benefit, which was intended to simplify the welfare system and get jobseekers back into work when it was first announced in 2011, has led to more people being out of pocket in the parish and reliant on getting their food from the Trussell Trust food bank at the church.

In 2017 four tonnes of food was handed out, almost three times less than the 11 tonnes needed to feed those who were living on the breadline in 2018.

To pledge some money towards Weston Favell Food Bank: click here.